Kern Board of Supervisors signs contract with its largest union, ending a two-year standstill

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BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KGET) — Just a few months ago, members of Kern’s Service Employees International Union were in the streets protesting and threatening to strike. Now, they are locked in a three-year deal with the county.

On Tuesday, all five Kern County supervisors signed off on a contract with SEIU 521, cementing a new three-year deal and ending a stalemate between the county and its largest union.

“A first step towards a new relationship with such a huge swath of our workforce,” 5th district supervisor Leticia Perez said at the Board’s meeting.

SEIU represents more than 5,000 county employees. For the last two years, it has been operating without a contract, causing workers to take to the streets in protest.

The impasse came to a head last October when 90 percent of SEIU members voted against the county’s latest contract proposal. It argued that under that contract, 900 employees would have been paid less than promised.

SEIU Local 521 Vice President Tiffany Sagbohan said that all changed this time around.

“Having additional equity adjustments in those hard-to-retain and hard-to-recruit classifications was also important to us to be able to maintain a service as necessary for our communities,” Sagbohan said. “That is what the difference is between that contract and this one, we no longer have those 900 and some odd people losing money.”

The new contract includes pay increases for both entry-level employees and those who have reached the maximum salary for their position. It also gives workers raises for nine years and time off for the holidays.

Kern County county administrative officer Ryan Alsop said stagnant revenue growth has hampered contract negotiations, but called Tuesday’s agreement an important step forward.

“We endeavor, in the county, to be a model of excellence at managing our business and our workforce,” Alsop said. “Part of that is making sure that we are doing a good job compensating our employees.”

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